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About this poet

Czeslaw Milosz was born to Weronika and Aleksander Milosz on June 30, 1911, in Szetejnie, Lithuania (then under the domination of the Russian tsarist government). After the outbreak of World War I, Aleksander Milosz was drafted into the Tsar's army, and as a combat engineer he built bridges and fortifications in front-line areas. His wife and son accompanied him in his constant travels throughout Russia. The family returned to Lithuania until 1918, settling in Wilno (then a part of Poland; also called Vilnius or Vilna).

Milosz graduated from high school in 1929, and in 1930 his first poems were published in Alma Mater Vilnenis, a university magazine. In 1931 he cofounded the Polish avant-garde literary group "Zagary"; his first collection of verse appeared in 1933. In 1934 he earned a master of law degree and traveled to Paris on a fellowship from the National Culture Fund. In 1936 he began working as a literary programmer for Radio Wilno. He was dismissed for his leftist views the following year and, after a trip to Italy, took a job with Polish Radio in Warsaw. He spent most of World War II in Nazi-occupied Warsaw working for underground presses.

After the war, he came to the United States as a diplomat for the Polish communist government, working at the Polish consulate first in New York City, then in Washington D. C. In 1950 he was transferred to Paris, and the following year he requested and received political asylum. He spent the next decade in Paris as a freelance writer. In 1953 he published The Captive Mind (Alfred A. Knopf), and his novel, The Seizure of Power (Criterion Books, 1955), received the Prix Littéraire European from the Swiss Book Guild. In 1960 he moved to the United States to become a lecturer in Polish literature at the University of California at Berkeley. He later became professor of Slavic languages and literature. He did not visit Poland again until 1981.

In 1980, Milosz was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. His other honors include an award for poetry translations from the Polish PEN Center in Warsaw, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Neustadt International Prize for Literature. He has written virtually all of his poems in his native Polish, although his work was banned in Poland until after he won the Nobel Prize. He has also translated the works of other Polish writers into English, and has cotranslated his own works with such poets as Robert Hass and Robert Pinsky. His translations into Polish include portions of the Bible (from Hebrew and Greek) and works by Charles BaudelaireT. S. EliotJohn MiltonWilliam Shakespeare, Simone Weil, and Walt Whitman. He died on August 14, 2004.

Selected Bibliography

The Captive Mind (Alfred A. Knopf, 1953)
Selected Poems (Seabury Press, 1973)
Bells in Winter (Ecco Press, 1978)
Unattainable Earth (Ecco Press, 1986)
The Collected Poems, 1931–1987 (Ecco Press, 1988)         
Provinces (Ecco Press, 1991)
Facing the River: New Poems (Ecco Press, 1995)
New and Collected Poems, 1931–2001 (Ecco Press, 2001)
Second Space: New Poems (Ecco Press, 2004)

The Seizure of Power (Criterion Books, 1955)
Emperor of the Earth: Modes of Eccentric Vision (University of California Press, 1977)
Nobel Lecture (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1980)
The Witness of Poetry (Harvard University Press, 1983)
The Land of Ultro (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1984)
To Begin Where I Am: Selected Essays (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001)




From the Image Archive


A Song On the End of the World

Czeslaw Milosz, 1911 - 2004

On the day the world ends
A bee circles a clover,
A fisherman mends a glimmering net.
Happy porpoises jump in the sea,
By the rainspout young sparrows are playing
And the snake is gold-skinned as it should always be.

On the day the world ends
Women walk through the fields under their umbrellas,
A drunkard grows sleepy at the edge of a lawn,
Vegetable peddlers shout in the street
And a yellow-sailed boat comes nearer the island,
The voice of a violin lasts in the air
And leads into a starry night.

And those who expected lightning and thunder
Are disappointed.
And those who expected signs and archangels' trumps
Do not believe it is happening now.
As long as the sun and the moon are above,
As long as the bumblebee visits a rose,
As long as rosy infants are born
No one believes it is happening now.

Only a white-haired old man, who would be a prophet
Yet is not a prophet, for he's much too busy,
Repeats while he binds his tomatoes:
No other end of the world will there be,
No other end of the world will there be.

Copyright © 2006 The Czeslaw Milosz Estate.

Copyright © 2006 The Czeslaw Milosz Estate.

Czeslaw Milosz

Czeslaw Milosz

Czeslaw Milosz, recipient of the 1980 Nobel Prize for Literature, was born in Lithuania in 1911 and grew up in Poland.

by this poet

Burning, he walks in the stream of flickering letters, clarinets,
machines throbbing quicker than the heart, lopped-off heads, silk
canvases, and he stops under the sky

and raises toward it his joined clenched fists.

Believers fall on their bellies, they suppose it is a monstrance that

but those


Click the icon above to listen to this audio poem.


Don’t run anymore. Quiet. How softly it rains
On the roofs of the city. How perfect
All things are. Now, for the two of you
Waking up in a royal bed by a garret window.
For a man and a woman. For one plant divided
Into masculine and feminine which longed for each other.
Yes, this is my